The loss of a loved one can be difficult, but when the loss is due to suicide, other emotions may make grief even more challenging.
When you lose someone you care about, it’s natural to feel the impact of their passing. Grief is a common human response to loss. You might experience everything from anger and denial to depression.
Despite many theories about the grieving process, bereavement is unique to you.
When loss is due to suicide, you may experience an array of emotions different from other times of grief in your life.
Suicide survivors — aka survivors of suicide loss — are anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
According to a 2019 survey by the American Association of Suicidology, there were approximately 48,000 suicides in the United States in 2019.
Suicide is often a shock. Many people who have thoughts of suicide appear happy on the outside — what’s sometimes called “smiling depression.”
You may not only experience the shock of sudden loss, but also the shock of sudden insights into thoughts you didn’t know your loved one was having.
The revelations a suicide brings can cause those left behind to experience additional feelings beyond expected bereavement.
Guilt, shame, and blame can compound grief, and suicide survivors may be
Losing a loved one to suicide can make you question your efforts and interactions with that person. You may wonder if you missed signs, or if you could have affected their thinking.
You may also experience survivor guilt — a feeling that the person you lost deserved to live more than you.
Shame can have multiple layers for suicide survivors, even resulting in death concealment, according to a
You may feel cultural isolation in your community if you’re in an environment where mental health is heavily stigmatized.
Personal beliefs may also weigh heavily on you, as cultural expectations clash with the feelings you have for the person you’ve lost.
A 2020 research article suggests that self-blame is more common among those experiencing suicide loss, compared to those experiencing sudden loss from natural causes.
Self-blame can emerge from feeling as though you could have done more or feeling as if you could have prevented the suicide in some way.
While many theories exist on the grieving process, the thoughts and emotions you have after suicide loss are unique to you.
Your relation to the person, your support system, your cultural beliefs, and your environment are just a few factors that can influence your grief after a suicide or suicide attempt.
Shame and suicide can be mixed with anger, denial, and fear.
You may even experience isolation, abandonment, or relief when grieving.
What you’re feeling isn’t wrong. If, however, your feelings of grief don’t ease over time, or if they start to disrupt your daily life, you may be experiencing complicated grief.
Complicated grief, or prolonged grief disorder, may require the guidance of a mental health professional.
There’s no timeline when it comes to grief. What you feel and when you feel it are a part of your process — no one else’s.
To help you cope during this challenging time, you can:
- talk with a mental health professional or trusted advisor
- join suicide grief support networks or local meeting groups
- pay attention to self-care needs such as hygiene and sleep habits
- journal about your feelings
- take your time when it comes to discussing suicide or what you’ve experienced; don’t feel pressured
- find outlets that promote relaxation, such as yoga, hiking, gardening, or meditating
- embrace creativity and emotional expression through the arts
- align with a purpose that comes from being a survivor of suicide, such as advocacy work or mentorship
You’re not alone in suicide grief. If you’ve lost someone to suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a host of resources as well as help on finding a support group.
At any time, you can speak with someone anonymously. You can:
Anyone can reach out to these organizations, whether you’ve lost someone to suicide or are experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself.
You can also check out Psych Central’s find a therapist guide for more resources and support.
The loss of a loved one to suicide can be an emotionally turbulent experience. In addition to expected feelings of grief, you may experience guilt, blame, or shame.
If you’re a suicide survivor, these emotions can be natural. You’re not alone.
The pain of grief is intense and can be experienced in a myriad of ways. If, however, your grief becomes so intense that you’re unable to function day-to-day, speaking with a mental health professional can help.